Winnipeg golf course celebrates 100-year birthday, players reminisce about time on the green
Kildonan Park Golf Course is the oldest in the city
The oldest golf course in Winnipeg is celebrating a century of operation this year. Kildonan Park Golf Course was first established on June 9, 1921, and has been in operation since.
Mayor Brian Bowman and Mynarski city councillor Ross Eadie tried their hand at some golf at the first municipal-run golf course in the city, and acknowledged the significance of the occasion with a new plaque at the first tee box.
"Reaching 100 years is a truly remarkable achievement," Bowman said.
"The longevity really is a credit to the condition and the character of the course. A century after the city of Winnipeg opened this beautiful course, it remains a jewel for local golfers and a real sense of pride for our entire community."
Playing through the pandemic
Bowman notes that though we are not quite through the COVID-19 pandemic, the golf course opened shortly after the 1918 global pandemic. He says during this pandemic, city golf courses have seen an absolute exponential increase in the rounds played as residents have wanted to get outside safely and play more.
"From a historical perspective, 2020 was the best season of city golf courses in the last 15 years. In 2020, rounds at Kildonan Park Golf Course were up 18 per cent," Bowman says.
The beloved golf course finished the season with over 33,000 total rounds last year and is already up 25 per cent over last year, Bowman said at the press conference.
"We're on pace for 41,000 total rounds. As someone who's played golf since the age of about six or seven years old, I can attest to how golf really draws you in."
Nostalgic memories, pieces of history
Many have been golfing the north end greens for their entire lives. Adolf Kussmann, 86, still plays the course. He saved a golf card from September of 1967 when he played with friends. At that time, a round of golf was only $1.75. He's still excited and eager to play, along with his wife and daughter.
"The scores you don't want to see, because it's 95. But at that time we shot to play golf ... I'm still playing."
WATCH | Kildonan Park Golf Course celebrates 100 years:
Kussmann says back in the day, one fellow golfer hit out of bounds over the fence toward the highway — which at the time was covered in barbed wire. He remembers his friend wanted to retrieve the ball.
"I said, Bill don't go over… He ripped his hand wide open. He did not go to hospital, he finished the game."
Course great for players of all ages
Retired educator Bernie Taronno has been golfing with a group for over 30 years, and has played at Kildonan Park since he was a kid. He says he's seen people retire here and "get old." He adds he has seen a lot of great amateur golfers, took part in municipal championships and also coached high school golf at the course.
"Everybody thinks that KP is a walk in the park when it comes to golf, until they get here and they try to shoot par. There's par 5's that are difficult to play. It can be a challenging course as well, but mostly it's just a lot of great memories."
Taronno says aside from the quality of the course, the atmosphere is what makes it great.
"The culture, and the people that are here running the courses, it's an upbeat, positive attitude. What I love about this place, everybody feels at home. There's no status here, everybody gets to play, particularly the kids."
Women included, going back decades
A women's club has been playing for 46 years at Kildonan Park golf course. Diane Sawyer, a hopeful recruit, recounts her time and experience on the green.
"When I started golfing in the early eighties, this is one of the courses my husband used to bring me to. I got my first birdie ever, on that turret bridge ... I'm not in the league yet but the girls are trying to convince me."
Sawyer notes it's a good place for both beginners and experienced golfers to play. She says 100 years is a lot to be proud of, and hopes the city keeps it up.
Golf clubs or ski poles?
City councillor for Mynarski, Ross Eadie jokes that the park is almost as old as his best score on the golf course. He realizes though, the importance of the space to the community and played a role in making it multi-seasonal with winter sport.
"There's so many north-enders, and people who live in West Kildonan and Old Kildonan who love this golf course. Golf is still loved by many people in this city. To make sure that the course remains in the future, I've helped to make sure that cross-country skiing was established. This golf course to Chief Peguis trail, it's all connected."
Eadie says every time somebody says the words Kildonan Park Golf Course, he remembers all of his school buddies who said they had a spare, but would sneak off to go play golf.
To mark the centennial of the golf course, green fees are reduced to $19.21 until Friday, August 6.